Introduction - Another Samsung Flagship
There’s no second thought that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is one of the best Android smartphones with the best specifications on board. It has a flamboyant display with a large battery under the hood and a lightning-fast processor and of course, you get the coveted 108MP quad-camera which has the acumen of the best camera rig on a smartphone ever. It has many pros but there are a few cons as well and here’s everything you need to know about it.
Also Read: Samsung Note Series Not Coming This Year
We tested the S21 Ultra for a week to draw out these conclusions so read along to know more.
Prices in India, Variants, Availability
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is available in Phantom Black, Phantom Brown, Phantom Navy, Phantom Titanium, and Phantom Silver. Note that only the Phantom Black and Silver is available in India. The 256GB plus 12GB variant is available at INR 105,999/- while the 512GB plus 16GB variant is available at INR 116,999/-. It is available on Samsung India and Flipkart India among other retailers. You get a tonne of deals and discounts including a Rs 10,000/- off on HDFC Bank Credit/Debit Card; No cost EMI started at INR 8,834/mo or INR 9,749.92/mo for 256GB and 512GB variants respectively.
It is not astonishing to notice that Samsung followed the path of Apple and decided to keep the packaging slim by removing the charging adapter this time. The box contents of Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra go light and just include:
- Galaxy S21 Ultra handset
- USB-C to USB-C cable
Specs at a glance
Let me talk about the on-paper specifications of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra first:
- Display: (6.8-inch) Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display, WQHD+ resolution
- Chipset: Exynos 2100 octa-core processor
- RAM & ROM: 12/256GB, 16/512GB
- Software: Samsung OneUI 3.1 based on Android 10
- Rear camera: Main Camera 108MP + Ultra Wide 12MP Dual Pixel Camera + Tele1 3X 10MP Dual Pixel Camera + Tele2 10x 10MP Dual pixel camera
- Selfie camera: 40MP
- Battery: 5000 mAh
- Weight: 229g
- Dimensions: 165.10 x 75.60 x 8.90
With key specs discussed, let’s jump right into the review of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and see if it is the best camera phone or not.
Design and Build - All About Rear Cameras
Samsung has come a long way from Galaxy S20 Ultra to Galaxy S21 Ultra in terms of design. The back panel sees a lot of change with a giant camera island or say pretty much a continent taking most of the panel. The camera bump that moulds into the wider aluminium frame that the phone has apart from front and back glass. Plus, there’s a Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides which makes it much resistant to falls and drops.
The back panel is now frosted with a matte finish that keeps it away from smudges and fingerprint marks that make it a must-go. The display is a tab bit smaller than Galaxy S20 Ultra although Samsung has minimized the bezels around the edges that make the Galaxy S21 Ultra look a bit bigger. Plus, there’s a tiny punch-hole sensor set up at the centre on the top side that won’t interfere with your viewing experience. Galaxy S21 Ultra is a monstrosity so don’t expect it to fit in everyone’s hands. Although Samsung has worked upon its One-handed mode with OneUI, the sheer size isn’t something you should forget when buying it.
You get two microphones at the top along with the disguised antenna lines. On the right, you get a volume rocker and power key while the bottom packs in a SIM card slot, a primary microphone, a USB-C port, and a bottom-firing speaker that works in conjunction with the earpiece that doubles as a secondary speaker as well.
The mammoth Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra sports a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a 120Hz Adaptive Refresh Rate. It has a 1440×3200 pixels resolution with a super-rich 515 PPI and a 20:9 aspect ratio at the user’s disposal. The display reaches a max of 1500 nits on peak brightness. It is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on both the front and rear panel which is super resistant to falls and drops. There’s an Always-On Display as well.
You already know the display specifications and it is better than most of its competitors without giving it a second thought. The Adaptive Refresh Rate onboard Galaxy S21 Ultra goes as high as 120Hz while going as low as 10Hz. This allows the device to put less strain on the battery while providing fluid transitions, scrolling, and animations which is buttery-smooth. Scrolling through the feed on Instagram or viewing content on YouTube has never been so soothing, to be honest. The UI adds another layer of responsiveness and has come a long way ever since Samsung started rolling out OneUI on its Galaxy smartphones.
The blacks are deeper and the whites are brighter, the display is vibrant and punchy and looks pretty dope given the fact that Samsung displays are among the best.
Thanks to its AMOLED tech, it is much brighter at 1,500 nits so you won’t have any issues viewing the display even under direct sunlight. The display is HDR10+ compliant which means you can access the highest video definition on all popular OTT and video platforms including HBO, Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, among others.
You also get S-Pen support with Galaxy S21 Ultra accessing all levels of pressure although there’s no slot for S-Pen here.
Performance - As Snappy As Possible
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is packed with the latest Exynos 2100 chipset made up on a 5nm node by Samsung itself. Clocked at 2.9GHz as its high-performance core, the chipset comes with a Mali-G78 MP14 graphics processing unit and up to a whopping 16GB of RAM. It has a lightning speed UFS 3.1 storage system maxing out at 512GB but unfortunately, there’s no memory card slot available.
The Exynos 2100 SoC is available for international variants while the Chinese and North American variant has Snapdragon 888 SoC on-board. The chipset is available in a tri-cluster arrangement with a max of 2.9GHz frequency that makes it take on heavy tasks no matter what may come while the four battery efficient cores at 1.8GHz take over other mundane tasks. The chipset takes over providing a whopping 46 per cent improvement providing the best of graphics processing.
A UFS 3.1 storage system is lightning fast while the 12GB and 16GB LPDDR5 RAM makes it a must-have although I wouldn’t recommend it if you are a hardcore gamer. This is because you will get high-end gaming phones at half the price tag of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Also, it has heating issues when subjected to heavy tasks i.e. gaming just after a few minutes. Also, using a camera for too long heats up the island making it a perfect spot to cook eggs (metaphorically). I personally feel Snapdragon 888 SoC is a far better processor compared to Exynos 2100.
RAM management is also on-point so you won’t have any issues opening plenty of apps at once so multitasking is just a piece of cake. You get either 12GB or 16GB of RAM and to put things into perspective, it is more than twice what the average flagship phone offers.
Software - As Usual
Talking about the OneUI 3.1, it is the latest offering from Samsung based on Android 11. It has abundant features including Google Discover as well as massive upgrades over the user interface. Eye Comfort Shield is available with OneUI 3.1 and it also supports Wi-Fi 6E. Zoom Lock takes care of shots at extreme magnification, a Director’s View gives you access to the feed from all rear and front cameras and more.
One Of The Best Camera Phones
Certainly, one of the best Android smartphones when it comes to cameras, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packs in a quad-camera setup arranged in a rectangular-shaped camera bump which is massive in its senses. It sports a 108MP primary sensor with f/1.8 aperture clubbed with Laser AF, OIS, PDAF; a secondary 10MP periscope telephoto sensor with OIS, f/4.9 aperture, 240mm focal length, dual pixel PDAF, and 10x optical zoom.
The third is a 10MP telephoto snapper with an aperture of f/2.4 with 70mm focal length with dual pixel PDAF, OIS, and 3x optical zoom and finally, there’s a fourth 12MP ultrawide snapper with f/2.2 aperture with dual pixel PDAF. The front sports a 40MP snapper with PDAF and f/2.2 aperture.
Talking about the cameras in practical use, it is certainly the most impressive camera rig that puts it ahead of the pack. The device comes with a 3x, 10x and a 30x zoom that you can extend to 100x and has a tripod lock feature that prevents the viewfinder from producing jarring motion. The underlying software takes care of which sensors to pick that could be unpredictable although the end result is quite impressive so you need not worry about it.
The centre of attraction is the 108MP ISOCELL HM3 sensor which is way better than the phone fixed on Galaxy S20 Ultra. It brings shots that are high in dynamic range and processing speed has increased too. No details are lost even if you zoom in and you have two telephoto lenses, you need not worry about the issues zooming so that’s a relief.
The focus enhancer captures close-up shots in frames with enhanced clarity. The primary sensor uses pixel binning technology which packs in more details including textures and that you can notice thanks to the large-sized sensor. Even the telephoto zoom up to 10x looks pretty dope capturing minute details that stand out.
Switch to low light photography and you should see sound images without noise or artificial lighting. The best thing is, you will get to use night mode on any sensor including the ultrawide, telephoto, and the primary sensor.
Then you get a 40MP primary sensor which is the same as Galaxy S20 Ultra. But you get the feature to change the colour tone of the shots toggling it from bright to natural and vice versa. Samsung uses 12-bit colour photos with a tonne of features within the Director’s View. Plus, the device can shoot videos at up to 8K resolution which is a strong point for Samsung flagship devices.
Battery - Might Feel Less
The giant flagship smartphone has a battery with a size of 5,000 mAh with a 25W fast charging tech on-board. It comes with 15W Fast Qi and PMA wireless charging along with 4.5W reverse wireless charging. Speaking about its battery life in practical usage, the device offers 35+ hours on-call or 18 hours on video playback, or 15 hours of web browsing. In actuality, you can get 5 to 6 hours of SoT with rigorous use which is outstanding given the fact that last-gen Note 20 Ultra managed to pull off 4 to 4.30 hrs of SoT.
No doubt there’s a catch with its charging speed. Although it is faster at 25W, its competitors have gone well beyond 50W which means it takes half the time to charge a competing flagship phone than Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Audio, Connectivity, Biometrics
Talking about the audio part of the device, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packs in a stereo speaker that has been tested to have a -25.5 LUFS on the loudness test. Since it is stereo, you get a wide surround sound that gives you an immersive video or gaming experience. It is loud although you might not get much bass to it. The device will calibrate itself to trigger the speakers for an overall great listening experience.
Just like with any other flagship smartphone, you get plenty of options to unlock the phone here. It includes an uber-high-tech ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner which is now 1.7x bigger and offers much greater accuracy and ease of use. It is faster than Galaxy S20 Ultra comparatively. You also get a Face Unlock mechanism as well although it has a success rate of 70 per cent which makes it weaker against OnePlus devices which have a much higher success rate. In any case, we didn’t say it was bad, it is better than previous generations.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a myriad of connectivity features unmatched by any other flagship smartphone. It includes a stereo speaker and comes tuned with AKG. It has Wi-Fi 6e support with dual-band for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency. It comes preloaded with Bluetooth 5.2 with LE and A2Dp ad has Galileo, BDS, Glonass, and A-GPS navigation systems under support. There’s a Type-C 3.2 port for charging and data transfer. It has a tonne of other features including Bixby, Samsung Pay, UWB support, ANT+, Samsung DeX, and more.
Pros & Cons
- QHD+ AMOLED panel
- 120Hz refresh rate
- 108MP powerful rear camera system
- 5000mAh battery with 45W fast charging support
- Stereo speakers
- The charging adapter is absent from the brand box
- Missing 3.5mm audio jack
- High price tag
No doubt Exynos 2100 SoC doesn’t fail to perform well and with the perfect combination of its camera setup, battery life, an exorbitant display, and more, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is a must-have if you don’t want to compromise and have that kind of a budget that won’t dent your pocket. This also means it is super expensive. Also, if charging the phone is your vendetta, you will have to wait for a long time to juice up the massive 5,000 mAh battery that takes forever. Just with any other smartphone, Galaxy S21 Ultra does have a mix of goods and bads so you decide whether to buy or not.